HIGHLIGHTS OF THE NOON BRIEFING BY STÉPHANE DUJARRIC,
SPOKESMAN FOR SECRETARY-GENERAL ANTÓNIO GUTERRES
MONDAY, 15 JANUARY 2018

SECRETARY-GENERAL TO BRIEF GENERAL ASSEMBLY AND PRESS ON OUTLOOK FOR 2018

  • Tomorrow the Secretary-General will be speaking to the General Assembly in an informal meeting on his outlook on 2018.
  • He will then hold a press conference in the Press Briefing Room, around 12:45 pm.
SECRETARY-GENERAL NAMES NAMIBIAN AS SPECIAL ADVISER ON AFRICA
  • Today, the Secretary-General is appointing Bience Gawanas of Namibia as Special Adviser on Africa.
  • She will succeed Maged Abdelaziz of Egypt to whom the Secretary-General is grateful for his commitment and dedicated service to the Organization. The Secretary-General also wishes to extend his appreciation to Mr. David Mehdi Hamam who served as Acting Special Adviser since Mr. Abdelaziz’s departure.
  • Ms. Gawanas is currently Special Adviser to the Minister of Poverty Eradication and Social Welfare in Namibia. Prior to this, she was Special Adviser to the Minister of Health and Social Services. A champion of women’s health and rights in Africa, she has been commended for her role in initiating far-reaching campaigns such as the continental Campaign on Accelerated Reduction of Maternal Mortality in Africa (CARMMA).
IN COLOMBIA, SECRETARY-GENERAL CALLS FOR END OF VIOLENCE, URGES DIALOGUE
  • The Secretary-General was in Colombia over the weekend. In a press conference concluding his visit, he expressed his concern regarding the ELN (National Liberation Army) and the violent events of recent days, and the possible escalation of clashes, which would dangerously undermine the political process and the situation of communities in the conflict-affected areas. In this context, he called for a cessation of all armed actions and for a re-initiation of a serious and constructive dialogue, with a view to meeting as soon as possible the parties’ commitment to reaching a settlement of their differences by political means. He instructed his Special Representative in Colombia, Jean Arnault, to take all the necessary actions to facilitate the parties' return to the negotiating table.
  • While in Colombia, the Secretary-General held an extensive meeting with President Juan Manual Santos and key members of his Government, during which he reiterated the solidarity and commitment of the UN alongside Colombia in building peace in the country. He also stressed the need for State institutions and public services to be deployed all over the country, for the benefit of all Colombians.
  • On Sunday, he visited an area for training and reintegration for the FARC in Mesetas, in the Department of Meta, as well as local communities and a demining project in the area. While in Colombia, the Secretary-General also met with FARC and Catholic Church leaders, civil society representatives and victims of the conflict, as well as with the President of the Truth Commission, Francisco du Roux.
  • In all these meetings, he said, nobody thought that armed conflict could be a solution to the problems of Colombia: this was a precious indication for the work the UN is doing in supporting the building of a Colombia in peace.
$430 MILLION NEEDED TO HELP 2.8 MILLION PEOPLE IN AFGHANISTAN – U.N. RELIEF WING
  • In Afghanistan, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reports that $430 million dollars are needed this year to help 2.8 million people in need. According to OCHA, the money will be used to assist people displaced by conflict or natural disasters with emergency shelter and food, treat patients injured by conflict, feed malnourished children, and assist vulnerable families returning home after years in Iran or Pakistan.
  • Over the weekend, members of the Security Council visited the country. This was the first Council visit to Afghanistan since 2010. The U.N. Mission in the country said Council members got a first-hand account of progress made by the Afghan National Unity Government, with the assistance of the international community, in addressing a wide range of interconnected challenges. They also learned of ways they could further assist efforts on the ground.
SYRIA: U.N. RELIEF WING VOICES CONCERN OVER IMPACT OF HOSTILITIES IN EASTERN GHOUTA
  • OCHA also said today they are concerned over the hostilities mainly targeting East Harasta, Misraba, Modira and Duma in besieged eastern Ghouta, resulting in civilian deaths and injuries and impacting many of the nearly 400,000 people trapped inside the area. In addition to death and injury, shelling reportedly resulted in restricted movement between towns, the suspension of school exams and limited access to local markets.
  • At the same time, mortar attacks continued to be reported on eastern neighborhoods in Damascus, causing injuries among civilians and material damages.
  • The UN reminds all parties of their responsibility to protect civilians and continues to call for safe, unimpeded and sustained access to all people in need, including the millions of people who live in hard-to-reach and besieged areas.
FOUR MOBILE CRANES ARRIVE IN YEMEN’S HODEIDAH PORT – WORLD FOOD PROGRAMME
  • The World Food Programme said today that a ship carrying four mobile cranes purchased by the agency and funded by the United States Agency for International Development has arrived in Yemen’s Hodeidah Port. This will allow faster delivery of relief items for Yemeni families in the grips of the world’s biggest hunger crisis.
  • The cranes, which will be operational immediately, are urgently needed to boost the capacity of Hodeidah Port, which handles around 70 percent of Yemen’s imports, including critically-needed food and humanitarian supplies. With each of the mobile cranes able to handle up to 60 tons, they will significantly boost the discharge of humanitarian cargo and other relief items. 
  • WFP’s Executive Director, David Beasley, said that while the cranes will increase the port’s capacity, more work is needed. “To avert even greater catastrophe, WFP needs better access and smooth, timely clearance of shipments,” he said.
LIBYA: U.N. REITERATES NEED TO SPARE CIVILIANS AMID CLASHES IN TRIPOLI’S TAJOURA
  • From Libya, OCHA reports that fighting erupted this morning in Tripoli’s Tajoura area. There have been multiple reports of casualties, however the number of casualties is not confirmed at this stage. Some families are thought to be trapped by the fighting. Humanitarian workers are monitoring the situation.
  • The UN reminds all parties of their obligation under international humanitarian law to take constant care to spare civilians and civilian structures. This includes taking all feasible precautions against the effects of attack to avoid and minimize incidental civilian harm.
CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC: 100,000 PEOPLE NEED URGENT ASSISTANCE IN PAOUA – U.N. RELIEF WING
  • From the Central African Republic, OCHA warns that some 100,000 people are in urgent need of humanitarian assistance in Paoua town, including 60,000 displaced people and 40,000 inhabitants of the town.
  • OCHA’s head of office recently led an assessment mission to the area together with the Central African Republic Minister of Humanitarian Affairs. Health concerns are increasing amid reports that dead bodies have been dumped in wells or are lying around in villages heightening the risk of contamination. Most of the displaced are women and children, raising specific protection concerns. Several cases of gender-based violence have also been reported.
  • Humanitarian assistance is being provided but needs to be stepped up as the displaced people are living in appalling conditions. Shelter, water, sanitation and hygiene, and non-food items remain the urgent gaps. There is also a need for more medical supplies. To date, WFP has provided seven-day food rations to 20,000 families.
  • More than 62,500 people have been displaced towards Paoua town and over 15,000 refugees have arrived in Chad. Should armed groups continue clashing and attack other villages, the number of displaced people in Paoua could potentially double or triple.
SECRETARY-GENERAL THANKS GROUP OF 77, CHINA FOR DEFENSE OF MULTILATERALISM
  • On 12 January, the Secretary-General spoke at the handover ceremony of the Chairmanship of the Group of 77 and China, where Egypt succeeded Ecuador.
  • He thanked the Group of 77 for the role it played in the past year, including as a central pillar in the defense of multilateralism.
  • The Secretary-General strongly committed to keep development at the center of the UN’s activities. He also voiced his commitment in relation to climate action, saying that we cannot be defeated by climate change and that we are not yet winning this battle. He noted that the biggest victims of climate change were members of the G77 and that, when others were failing, the largest economies of the Group of 77 and China were assuming the leadership in climate action.
NEW DOCUMENT HIGHLIGHTING SECURITY COUNCIL PRACTICE NOW AVAILABLE
  • The 2017 Highlights of Security Council Practice, a document prepared by the Department of Political Affairs’ Security Council Affairs Division, is now available online on the website of the Security Council, as well as in hard copy.  
  • As in previous years, the Highlights of Security Council Practice document provides an annual overview of Security Council activities, with statistical information on the evolving practice of the Council relating to meetings, agenda, decisions and voting patterns, as well as subsidiary bodies. The 2017 edition contains additional information relating to representatives of members of the Council, briefers and presidential texts.
FIRST INTERNATIONAL FORUM ON MIGRATION STATISTICS BEGINS TODAY
  • In Paris, the first International Forum on Migration Statistics began today. The Forum is organized jointly by the UN Migration Agency, the UN Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UNDESA), and the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), and will gather close to 700 statisticians, researchers, policy makers and representatives from civil society.
  • Participants will discuss how to improve existing data collection to better understand global migration trends, drivers and impacts, and to support policy evaluation.
HIGHEST ANNUAL GROWTH RATE FOR TOURISM IN 7 YEARS IN 2017 – U.N. TOURISM AGENCY
  • The UN World Tourism Organization today said that international tourist arrivals in 2017 grew by 7%, making it a total of 1.3 billion tourists. This is the highest annual growth rate in seven years. The agency said this was mostly due to the global economic upswing, and added that it expects growth to continue in 2018, though at a more sustainable pace of around 4%.
  • Europe and Africa had the highest growth rates at 8%, followed by Asia and the Pacific with a 6% growth.